Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

A Muslimah Has Some Questions Pt. 2

Sam Shamoun

This is a continuation of the first part of our discussion.

Jesus receives the worship due to God

Instead of refusing to be worshiped, which is what we would expect if he was nothing more than a Muslim prophet, we not only find Christ accepting such reverence, we even have him going as far as claiming that it is God’s express will that all individuals honor him in the same way that they honor the Father:

“The Father, in fact, judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son, so that all people will honor the Son JUST AS they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.” John 5:22-23

This explains why we find passage after passage where people would bow or fall down before Christ in worship.

The Synoptic Gospels on worshiping Jesus

For instance, wicked spirits would fall before Jesus in acknowledgment that he is the Son of God who has the power to destroy them:

“And He told his disciples to have a boat ready for Him because of the crowd, lest they should crush Him; for He had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon Him to touch Him. And whenever the unclean spirits beheld Him, they fell down before Him and cried out, ‘You are the Son of God.’ And He strictly ordered them not to make Him known.” Mark 3:9-12

“They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Ger'asenes. And when He had come out of the boat, there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who lived among the tombs; and no one could bind him any more, even with a chain; for he had often been bound with fetters and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the fetters he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out, and bruising himself with stones. And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him; and crying out with a loud voice, he said, ‘What have You to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure You by God, do not torment me.’” Mark 5:1-7

We find one case where wise men from the East sought the child Jesus in order to worship him in recognition of the fact that he is the King of the Jews:

“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East, and have come to worship Him.’ … and going into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother, and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” Matthew 2:1-2, 11

The homage and gifts that these Gentiles gave to the Messianic Child were a partial fulfillment of the words of the Psalmist:

“God, give Your justice to the king and Your righteousness to the king’s son… May he rule from sea to sea and from the Euphrates to the ends of the earth. May desert tribes kneel before him and his enemies lick the dust. May the kings of Tarshish and the coasts of the islands bring tribute, the kings of Sheba and Seba offer gifts. Let all kings bow down to him, all nations serve himMay his name endure forever; may it continue as long the sun endures. May all nations be blessed by him and call him blessed.” Psalm 72:1, 8-11, 17

The Psalm’s complete fulfillment awaits Christ’s return to the earth to rule over the nations.

That this Psalm points ultimately to the Messiah is supported by the Jewish Targums, which are Aramaic paraphrases of the Hebrew Bible:

Composed by Solomon, uttered in prophecy. O God, give your just rulings to the King Messiah, and your righteousness to the son of King David. (Targum Psalms, An English Translation by Edward M. Cook; bold emphasis ours)

Nor is this the only time that Jesus was worshiped in acknowledgment of his unique royal status:

“Then the mother of the sons of Zeb'edee came up to Him, with her sons, and kneeling before Him she asked him for something. And he said to her, ‘What do you want?’ She said to Him, ‘Command that these two sons of mine may sit, one at Your right hand and one at Your left, in Your kingdom.’” Matthew 20:20-21

“When He had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.” Luke 24:50-53

In this passage the disciples worshiped Jesus as he ascended into heaven. The following reference gives us an indication where he went:

“Then He said to them, ‘How can they say that the Messiah is the Son of David? David himself says in the book of Psalms: “The Lord declared to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies Your footstool.’” David calls him “Lord”; how then can the Messiah be his Son?’” Luke 20:41-44 – cf. Mark 12:35-37; Matthew 22:41-46

Here Jesus says that David called the Messiah his sovereign Lord whom Yahweh invited to sit at his right hand.

According to the Psalms, Yahweh is in heaven seated on his throne ruling over all creation:

“The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord ridicules them.” Psalm 2:4

“The LORD is in His holy temple; The LORD’s throne is in heaven.” Psalm 11:4

“The LORD has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.” Psalm 103:19

Thus, Jesus’ ascension into heaven to sit at the Father’s right hand meant that he was now ruling from God’s very own throne as the sovereign Lord of all!

This indicates that the disciples were worshiping Jesus in recognition of the fact that their risen Lord had entered heaven in order to begin his reign as the exalted King of creation.

This isn’t the only time where Jesus spoke of his heavenly enthronement:

“When daylight came, the elders of the people, both the chief priests and the scribes, convened and brought Him before their Sanhedrin. They said, ‘If You are the Messiah, tell us.’ But2 He said to them, ‘If I do tell you, you will not believe. And if I ask you, you will not answer. But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the Power of God.’ They all asked him, ‘Are You, then, the Son of God?’ And He said to them, ‘You say that I am.’ ‘Why do we need any more testimony,’ they said, ‘since we’ve heard it ourselves from His mouth?’ Then their whole assembly rose up and brought Him before Pilate. They began to accuse Him, saying, ‘We found this man subverting our nation, opposing payment of taxes to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is the Messiah, a King.’” Luke 22:66-71; 23:1-3 – cf. Mark 14:60-64; Matthew 26:62-66

John’s Gospel tells us that the Sanhedrin wanted to have Christ killed because he claimed to be the Son of God:

“Then Jesus came out wearing a crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Here is the man!’ When the chief priests and the temple police saw Him, they shouted, ‘Crucify! Crucify!’ Pilate responded, ‘Take Him and crucify Him yourselves, for I find no grounds for charging Him.’ ‘We have a law,’ the Jews replied to him, ‘and according to that law He must die, because He made Himself the Son of God.’ When Pilate heard this statement, he was more afraid than ever.” John 19:6-8

Mark’s Gospel reveals that the reason they wanted him dead is because they viewed this to be a blasphemous assertion:

“Then the high priest stood up before them all and questioned Jesus, ‘Don’t You have an answer to what these men are testifying against You?’ But He kept silent and did not answer anything. Again the high priest questioned Him, ‘Are You the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’ ‘I am,’ said Jesus, ‘and all of you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.’ Then the high priest tore his robes and said, ‘Why do we still need witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy! What is your decision?’ And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.” Mark 14:60-64

When we see who exactly Jesus was making himself out to be we can better understand why the Jewish authorities thought this. By referring to himself as the Son of Man who comes on the clouds of heaven, Christ was identifying himself as the divine figure that the prophet Daniel saw:

“I continued watching in the night visions, and I saw One like a Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was escorted before Him. He was given authority to rule, and glory, and a kingdom; so that those of every people, nation, and language should worship Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will not be destroyed.” Daniel 7:13-14

This particular Son of Man is depicted as ruling over the nations forever and receiving the same worship which Daniel says that God Most High shall be given:

“And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.” Daniel 7:27 – cf. 3:12, 17-18, 28; 6:16, 20, 26

Hence, by making himself out to be the Son of Man of Daniel Jesus was basically claiming to be the divine King whom all the nations must serve and worship forever. And since the Sanhedrin didn’t believe him they naturally viewed such assertions to be blasphemous.

Christ further received worship as God’s unique Son and the divine I AM who is sovereign over the winds and seas:

“Then He made the disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowds. And after He had dismissed the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone, but the boat by this time was many furlongs distant from the land, beaten by the waves; for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out for fear. But immediately He spoke to them, saying, ‘Take heart, I AM (ego eimi); have no fear.’ And Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’ Jesus immediately reached out His hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘O man of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat WORSHIPED HIM, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’” Matthew 14:22-33

This leads me to my next example:

“And behold, Jesus met them and said, ‘Hail!’ And they came up AND TOOK HOLD OF HIS FEET and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.’ … Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw Him they worshiped Him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.’” Matthew 28:9-10, 16-20

In this passage Christ is worshiped in the same context where he claims to be the Son that shares in the singular name of the Father and the Holy Spirit, and who also possesses absolute authority over the entire creation. He even promises to be with all his disciples till the end of the age, an explicit claim to omnipresence!

That Christ possesses the same divine name, which both the Father and the Holy Spirit share in, is not only an explicit affirmation of his Deity, it also provides support for God being tri-Personal in nature, despite what any anti-Trinitarian cult such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses may say about this text:

“… God is one in Essence, but three in Persons. God has one Nature, but three Centers of Consciousness: That is, there is only one What in God, but there are three Whos; there is one It, but three Is. This is a mystery, but not a contradiction. It would be contradictory to say God was only one person, but also was three persons, or that God is only one nature but has three natures. But to declare, as orthodox Christians do, that God is one in essence, eternally revealed in three distinct persons, is not a contradiction.

“A grammatical analysis of Matthew 28:19 is highly revealing. The verse says: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit” (NASB, emphasis ours). The word name in Matthew 28:19 is singular in the Greek, indicating that there is one God. But there are three persons within the Godhead, each with a definite article (in the Greek language, firmly indicating distinctness)–the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The verse does not say ‘in the names [plural] of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,’ nor does it say ‘in the name of Father, the name of the Son, and the name of the Holy Spirit.’ Nor does it say ‘in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’ (omitting the definite articles). It says ‘in the name [singular, asserting the oneness of God] of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit’ (each distinct from the others as persons). This verse very clearly demonstrates the doctrine of the Trinity.” (Norman L. Geisler & Ron Rhodes, When Cultists Ask: A Popular Handbook on Cultic Misinterpretations [Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI 1997], p. 130)

People would also bow down and kneel in Christ’s presence due to his ability to perform miraculous deeds and heal multitudes of all their infirmities:

“And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to Him and kneeling before Him said, ‘Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly; for often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.’ And Jesus answered, ‘O faithless and perverse generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to Me.’ Then Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and from that moment the boy was healed.” Matthew 17:14-18

“Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Ja'irus by name; and seeing him, he fell at His feet, and besought Him, saying, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay Your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.’ And He went with him. And a great crowd followed Him and thronged about Him. And there was a woman who had had a flow of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus, and came up behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. For she said, ‘If I touch even His garments, I shall be made well.’ And immediately the hemorrhage ceased; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in Himself that power had gone forth from Him, immediately turned about in the crowd, and said, ‘Who touched My garments?’ And his disciples said to Him, ‘You see the crowd pressing around You, and yet You say, “Who touched Me?”’ And He looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had been done to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before Him, and told Him the whole truth. And He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’” Mark 5:22-32

“But immediately a woman, whose little daughter was possessed by an unclean spirit, heard of Him, and came and fell down at His feet. Now the woman was a Greek, a Syrophoeni'cian by birth. And she begged Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. And He said to her, ‘Let the children first be fed, for it is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.’ But she answered Him, ‘Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs.’ And He said to her, ‘For this saying you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.’ And she went home, and found the child lying in bed, and the demon gone.” Mark 7:24-30

“While the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennes'aret. And He saw two boats by the lake; but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, He asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when He had ceased speaking, He said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’ And Simon answered, ‘Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at Your word I will let down the nets.’ And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking, they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.’ For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zeb'edee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men.’” Luke 5:1-11

Peter’s reaction before Christ is reminiscent of the way OT saints reacted in the presence of Yahweh God:

“Then Job replied to the LORD: ‘I know that You can do anything and no plan of Yours can be thwarted. You asked, “Who is this who conceals My counsel with ignorance?” Surely I spoke about things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, “Listen now, and I will speak. When I question you, you will inform Me.” I had heard rumors about You, but now my eyes have seen You. Therefore I despise myself and melt; I consider myself dust and ashes.” Job 42:1-6

“In the year that king Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, and His robe filled the temple. Seraphim were standing above Him; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of Hosts; His glory fills the whole earth.’ The foundations of the doorways shook at the sound of their voices, and the temple was filled with smoke. Then I said: ‘Woe is me for I am ruined because I am a man of unclean lips and live among a people of unclean lips, and because my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of Hosts.’” Isaiah 6:1-5

It is therefore abundantly clear from all of these examples that the Synoptic Gospels portray Jesus being worshiped as God, and the fact that he accepted such worship without hesitation indicates that he thought of himself as God.

This fact helps us to better understand the following citation:

“And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple, ‘Hosanna TO the Son of David!’ they were indignant; and they said to Him, ‘Do you hear what these are saying?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Yes; have you never read, “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast brought perfect praise”?’” Matthew 21:14-16

Jesus quotes the following Psalm in order to justify the praise that he was receiving from these children:

LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth! You have set Your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants You have established a stronghold against Your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.” Psalm 8:1-2

According to the Psalter, Yahweh has ordained praise from both children and infants in order to silence his enemies. The point being that even infants have enough sense to know to worship Yahweh their God, in contrast to his enemies who think that they are wise but by their opposition to Yahweh show that they are nothing more than fools.

Now the only way that Jesus could take a verse, which speaks of infants praising Yahweh, and use that to justify the worship he was receiving from children is if he was operating under the assumption that he truly was(is) Yahweh God! Otherwise, it defeats the purpose to cite this reference if Jesus did not think he was(is) Yahweh Incarnate.

In other words, how could a text that mentions children worshiping Yahweh justify the praise that Jesus was receiving if he were not Yahweh?

The answer is obvious… it couldn’t, and yet Jesus cited such a verse to defend the worship he was receiving from children!

In light of the foregoing, could the data be any clearer that the Synoptic writers portray Christ as receiving the same honors and worship which only God is supposed to be given?

We still have more to say concerning the issue of Jesus being worshiped in the next installment.